Does writing a book establish the author as an authority? The words are etymological cousins, but that relationship doesn’t shed much light on my question. And I have a reason for asking.
I’m releasing a book entitled Marriage is a Verb, a brief treatise offering a simple message to married people young and old: marital success is defined more by actions than words, the verbs of our life narratives. It was a fun little book to write, beginning with a rehearsal dinner toast over ten years ago and morphing into a comically serious examination of human relationships. Yes, an epic rhetorical leap. But does that jump make me an authority on marriage?
Marriage is complex to begin with and we complicate it further with expectations and high divorce rates, children and mortgages, in-laws and outdated gender roles. How does one become an authority on such a thing?
Presidential candidates view authorship as a rite of passage, even when they offer contradictions and use ghost writers. Celebrities pen memoirs to great reception. The public, always a sucker for popular culture, elevates the prose of reality television figures to near-literary status, though their sex tapes often attract wider audiences. These authors of varied content are perhaps authorities on some matters, if only the knack for leveraging their own human frailties for commercial gain. Come to think of it, fiction writers like myself do a bit of that. Perhaps a sex tape is the next logical step?
If writing is the physical manifestation of thought, I’ve given marriage a lot of thought and written about it in a way that lacks the same authority I encourage my reader to pursue. To each his own. The truth of human relationships is probably not universal, though some tendencies and characteristics and habits are certainly predictable. I am, for example, entering my Porsche phase. It’s up to each pair of stakeholders to define the terms of their relationship, to invest the time and resources to maintain it, to mourn its shortfalls, to mend its inevitable wounds, and to celebrate its occasional triumphs. In short, we author our own narratives as we strive to strengthen relationships, shore up social contracts, and move the human ball forward. I suppose that’s almost as good as a sex tape.